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3. It was the hindering of the gains of those who profited by the Pythoness which drew forth the violence of opposition to the gospel in the city of Philippi ; and there was a readiness amongst the people to carry forward that Aame of violence as soon as it was once lighted. Thus it ever is; the unconverted are indifferent to the subject of religion, and take little or no notice concerning the preaching of the gospel, until it is found to interfere with the enjoyments or the benefits which they value; but as soon as some few worldly hearts are quickened to angry opposition, there are always many more at hand, who
catch the feeling, and increase the excitement against the doctrine and the people of Christ, towards whom the most unjust and injurious conduct is often practised. Such opposers are occasionally under the necessity of altering their course, and making some kind of apology for unchristian violence; but this only leads to a more earnest desire to get rid of the influence of spiritual truth; just as the magistrates, when they were forced to soothe Paul and his companion, besought them that they would depart from
QUESTION. Am I careless concerning the progress of spiritual truth? Am I vexed at its influence ? Am I angry at finding that the gospel requires me to give up something that I think a gain? Do I ever help on the excitement of opposition against any of the spiritual people of God ?
4. Paul and Silas were suffering and in prison, but their hearts rejoiced in the Lord; they were in a dark dungeon, but they passed the hours of darkness in singing praises to God. This alteration of the natural effect of such suffering was as surely miraculous, as the alteration of the laws of nature by which the foundation of the prison was shaken, the doors cast open, and the bands of the prisoners loosed. That spiritual miracle takes place daily, by the supernatural influence of the Holy Ghost on the hearts of christians, turning their sorrow into joy. It was the miracle of the earthquake which alarmed the jailer, but it was the spiritual miracle that directed him to those two prisoners rather than to any others; and made him ask them “ what he should do to be saved.” This drew forth the statement of that secret power by which the spiritual miracle is always worked—“ Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” This is the source of the miracle,—the power that can change sorrow into joy,--and make the suffering christians sing praises unto the Lord, even in the very midnight of their troubles. Its effect upon the jailer was immediate; he would have killed himself before, but now he saw the value of life, that he might make his calling and election sure. To lay hold of Christ by faith is the one thing which contains the whole gospel. Such a faith transforms the heart that receives it into the very image of Christ, who is the object of our faith; it works salvation from the dominion of sin in this life; and it enables us to realize the glory that is reserved for them that believe, in the life to come.
QUESTION. How do I bear the privations to which I am exposed in consequence of my christian profession? Is it as one who rejoices in the Lord alway? Do I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, in the sense in which such faith saves from the power, as well as from the condemnation of sin ?
God of all power and might, without whom nothing is strong, mercifully grant that I may ever feel that thy power alone can open the heart to attend to the things of salvation. Thou orderest the preparations in the heart of man; thou breakest the resistance of his pride; I beseech thee to do this great work for those whom I love, and who may not yet be of the faithful in the Lord. Keep me, O God, from the self-deception of professing outwardly to approve the preaching of the gospel, while inwardly my heart goes after the ruler of the course of this world, the spirit that. now worketh in the children of disobedience.
Teach me how to search the motives of my profession, and cast out from me every evil thing while I speak of thy servants, as those who shew the way of salvation. O Lord, enable me so to feel the right value of earthly things, and of heavenly things, that whatever may seem to me to be a gain, I may count but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; check every rising thought that would grow into anger or opposition against thy word, or thy people; and enable me to help in checking such in others, rather than do anything that tends to fan the flame in their hearts. Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief; teach me so to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, that I may have peace with thee, O Father; and that all my sorrow may be turned into joy in the contemplation of that glory that shall be revealed, and which is reserved in heaven for those who are kept, by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation. AMEN.
Progress of the Missionaries. PLACE.—Thessalonica and Berea. TIME.-A.D. 49.
May God, for the sake of Jesus Christ, give me the Holy Spirit, that I inay understand this portion of His Holy Word, and profit by it. Amen.
THE SCRIPTURE. Acts, chap. XVII. verses 1 to 15. Phil. IV. 15, 16.
I Thess. II. 9. 2 Thess. III. 7, 8. Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews : and Paul, as 2 his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alledging, that Christ must 3 needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach [or, whom, said he, I preach) unto you, is Christ. Aud 4 some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. But 5 the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew 6 Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, " These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also ; whom 7 Jason hath received : and these all do contrary to the decrees of Cæsar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.” And they troubled the 8
9 people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. And
when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them
go, . 10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto
Berea : who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received
the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, 12 whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed ; also 13 of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. But
when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was
preached of Paul at Berea, they caine thither also, and stirred up the 14 people. And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it 15 were to the sea : but Silas and Timotheus abode there still. And they
that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens : and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed.
Phil. IV. 15, 16. 15
Now, ye Philippians, know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as 16 concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.
1 Thess. II. 9. 9 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail : for labouring
night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.
2 Thess. III. 7, 8. 7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us : for we behaved not 8 ourselves disorderly among you ; neither did we eat any man's bread for
nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you.
From Philippi, Paul, with Silas and Timothy, proceeded to Amphipolis; but it is supposed that Luke remained for the present at Philippi. Amphipolis was the capital city of one part of Macedonia ; but we hear of nothing which occurred there, or at the next city called Apollonia; though that was also a very populous place, and the missionaries seem to have travelled some distance out of their direct way, in order to pass through it. From Apollonia they went to Thessalonica, a very important seaport town, where a great deal of commerce was carried on; and where there were a large number of Jews, and of course a synagogue. Paul never failed to address himself first to the Jews, wherever he found any of that people in the places he visited (see page 177): accordingly he went into the synagogue at Thessalonica, and there instructed the Jews, by explaining the scriptures of the Old Testament, and proving that the Messiah, whom they expected in his glory to restore the kingdom to Israel, must necessarily, according to the same scriptures, have died in the first place, and risen again from the dead; and then he declared that Jesus, whom he preached to them, was the very Messiah promised in the Old Testament. He continued to teach in this manner for three successive sabbath days; and some of his Jewish hearers received the preaching of Paul in faith, and joined themselves to the missionaries; besides these, a great number of proselytes (who not being Jews by birth had become such by admission) believed the gospel and followed the apostle, together with many of their wives and other respectable women who attended the synagogue.
This great movement in favour of the gospel greatly exasperated those Jews who resisted the preaching of Paul. They were jealous of the influence he had thus obtained, and employed some of the worst and lowest of the people to gather a mob, and raise a riotous disturbance against the missionaries, who lodged at the house of a person named Jason. The mob assembled before Jason's house with shouts and cries, desiring to have Paul and Silas given up to them. They were not however to be found in the house, and so the mob seized upon Jason and some of the newly converted christians who were with him, and hurried them away to the magistrates. The cry against them was, that some of the christians, who were said to turn the world upside down, had come to Thessalonica, where Jason harboured them that they were all persons dangerous to the government of the country, acting contrary to the laws of the Roman emperor, and setting up the authority of another person, one Jesus, as king. This accusation excited the crowd, and alarmed' the magistrates, who however contented themselves by taking security of Jason and his companions for the maintenance